BOOT CAMP 494 (18/09/07)

Vista Tuning Tips part 3


Following on from last week’s cull of Startup items that launch automatically with Windows Vista, this week we’re turning our attention to ‘Services’. These are basically small programs that carry out configuration and housekeeping tasks, but like the Startup entries, many of them are redundant and waste resources.


You might be wondering why, if these Services are part of Windows, they are not needed? The point is Microsoft has no idea what you are going to use your PC for, it could be anything from emailing to video editing, so by default Vista is installed with a highly conservative configuration, with most of the behind the scenes bits and bobs it thinks you might need one day switched on.


Normally that’s not a problem and when all of the Windows Services are behaving themselves it only adds slightly to boot up time and CPU workload but when you start installing new programs new Services are added, and over time some of them may become corrupt, squabble with each other or run amok, eating up memory reserves, at which point you will notice an increase in boot up time and a general slow down. 


The solution is to prune unnecessary and troublesome Services, however, this procedure really is only for more experienced users. It is a fairly big job so only tackle it if you are having serious performance issues. If your PC is booting up in under 90 seconds I would leave well alone but if you do decide to proceed then before you do anything, as always set a new System Restore point (see this week’s Top Tip).


You can easily find out if Services are responsible for your problems with a simple test and switch them all off. Go to Search on the Start menu and type ‘msconfig’, double click the icon that appears and the System Configuration utility opens. On the General tab click Selective Startup and uncheck ‘Load System Services’ then OK. You will be prompted to reboot. Do so, note how long it takes to re-boot and compare it with your benchmark boot time. During re-boot you may see one or two pop-ups warning that such and such is missing but just click OK or cancel to clear the box. If the boot up time is significantly faster, and by that I mean it is shaving a minute or more off the normal time it takes then it is worth looking into.  To finish off open the System Configuration once again and on the General tab re-check the Load system Services box, click OK and reboot.


Next, go to Search on the Start menu and type ‘services.msc’ (without the quotes). A list of at least 120 Services will now appear (depending on which version of Vista you are using and the software installed on your PC). The columns show the name of each Service along with a brief description of what each one does and whether or not it starts automatically with Windows, and whether or not it is currently running.


To change a Service’s start-up status simply right click on it, select Properties then change the setting on the Startup Type drop-down menu to either Manual or Disabled and click OK. The effect will take place after a reboot. Manual is usually the safest bet because this means the Service will only start if it is actually needed. Disabling a Service stops it running altogether and if for some reason it is needed you will see an error message or something (possibly important) may stop working.


Now we come to the big question of what should be allowed to run, and what can be switched off and for this I refer you to the comprehensive and very well-researched list at This lists all of the standard entries you will find in the four main versions of Vista, their default settings and the suggested ‘Safe’ and ‘Bare Bones’ or experts-only settings. Additionally, if you click the entry it shows you the Microsoft description of what it does along with a more comprehensible explanation that will help you to decide if you need it or not.


Work your way through the Black Viper list switching no more than three or four Services at a time to the suggested Safe setting then reboot. Watch the screen carefully when Windows is loading to make sure there are no error messages and quickly test your Internet connection and any other vital applications before moving on to the next batch.


Once you have finished with the all of the Windows Services you can tackle the third-party ones, which belong to the programs and occasionally the hardware you have installed on your PC. It should be fairly obvious from the Name column what they are. If you decide to switch any that belong to vital applications, like your anti-virus program, firewall or security programs, remember to switch them back to their former setting if it turns out they are having no impact on boot up time or performance.


Next Week – Vista Tuning Tips, part 4




Benchmark Boot Time

The time it takes for a PC to boot up to a useable state (see Boot Camp 492)



Central Processor Unit - the main microprocessor chip in a PC


Selective Startup

Diagnostic facility for enabling or disabling groups of system files loaded during Windows boot up




System Restore in Windows Vista is based on the utility in Windows ME and XP and the idea is it stores a selection of key system files – a so-called Restore Point RP) -- so that if any of them are damaged in a crash you can quickly restore your computer to its former state. Restore Points are set automatically once a day and whenever you install a program or item of hardware that makes changes to system files. In Vista to manually set a RP press Winkey + Break > System and click the Create button (or System Restore button if you need to restore your computer after a crash). You can also get to the System Restore menus by typing ‘system’ in Search on the Start menu.




© R. Maybury 2007, 2108

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